Less ECCC Commentary and More Facts, Please

[Published in the Phnom Penh Post on April 13, 2009. Written in response to the OSJI campaign against the Khmer Rouge court.]

Dear Editor,

Georgia Wilkins’ article in your April 3 issue of The Phnom Penh Post titled “Judges gag corruption talk” should have been labelled as a commentary rather than presented as news.

Wilkins seems unable to distinguish between corruption allegations and responses to Hun Sen’s reported comments on the ECCC. For example, she follows a quotation of the prosecution’s arguments about the inadmissibility of the corruption allegations, because they were not notified before the hearing, with: “But [defence] lawyers argued that as the comments [by Hun Sen] were made only two days ago, they could not have included it [sic] in the appeal.” What are readers meant to understand from that? That Hun Sen accused the ECCC of corruption?

In addition, the article contains some significant inaccuracies:

1.The allegations about kickbacks at the ECCC did not arise last year. They were first made more than two years ago. And they did not “arise”. They were pushed to the media by OSJI [Open Society Justice Initiative], and they have been repeated continually since then by OSJI, which has steadfastly refused to make its allegations specific or … subject to verification.

2.There was no “review of the court [ECCC] by a UN oversight body”. The UN has never reviewed the court on this or any other matter. (However, there have been regular independent financial audits of the Cambodian side, the results of which are posted on the ECCC website.)

3.The German parliamentary delegation report was not “leaked to the media in February”. It was published on the internet in November (my memory: maybe it was December or October). The assertion that the report “named” the ECCC head of administration as “found guilty of corruption” might be worded to be defensible in a libel case but is bad journalism. The German delegation’s report quoted Knut Rosandhaug, the ECCC’s deputy director of administration, as reporting such a “finding” to the delegation. Mr Rosandhaug, offered the opportunity to do so by the media, declined to affirm that quotation. Wilkins does not mention this.

4.Wilkins claims that OSJI’s kickback allegations have been “consistently dodged by the court, the UN and the government”. Leaving aside the government, for the last two years the court has spent an inordinate amount of time dealing with the allegations.

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